So, you're at a party. It's a bit different, as everyone's flirting. A disproportionate number of men are detailing their extreme outdoor-leisure activities or sharing snaps of themselves with small children. They are not commitment-phobes. Meanwhile, the women – the most popular of whom may casually mention their yogic talent/Swedish descent/independence (but not their broodiness) – are wondering whether the chaps in hats are hiding bald patches.
If you live, perhaps, in Croydon, or aren't amusing or endearing seconds into any exchange, you're ignored.
OK, "party" is stretching it: you are, in fact, on a dating website. (Heterosexual or gay; the specifics may differ but the snap judgements/fact-fudging remain.) This is what single people do these days: more than two-thirds of unattached Brits are likely to date online this year, claim digital matchmakers Parship. Whatever happened to the shame we once felt at advertising for love, or the terrifying term "lonely heart"?
In a word: photos. Coy or not, profile pictures are just what you do online. Plus, there are around three times more single Brits than 40 years ago, so being unattached has lost some stigma. The Americans were early adopters (Rachel was at it on Friends) but, then, Yanks are good at unselfconsciousness. Enter Sarah Beeny. In 2004, not content with criticising people's DIY on TV, she launched mysinglefriend.com, where daters get nominated by a pal – cunningly stripping the activity of its erstwhile furtiveness. Now you can't get through an ad break without young hipsters singing about it, dedicated iPhone apps, and couples sharing the moment their eyes met across a crowded page of profiles.
But what of stumbling into your love-to-be in a bar? Stories for the children, about daddy wooing his pretty neighbour for months? Or getting to know someone – then finding them devastatingly sexy? It still happens. But if singledom beckons, best get a flattering photo done and invent some sexy hobbies. That special someone might just be having a night in with the laptop.